THome-confined Diwali celebrations kick off with this rather silly comedy on a lingering theme of Indian cinema: the redemption of the moron. Leading the way is Rajkummar Rao, the elastic outsider who played the playwright in love in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga last year. The funny thing about his role as Montu, a small town physical education teacher several degrees more childish than his students, is that he’s a beta male convinced he’s an alpha, as bloated as he is. the magnificent carrot he maintains, perhaps to cultivate an illusion of height. Her remodeling in wedding material plays out like an extended “doctor, heal yourself” riff. Heard the one about the physical education teacher who needed to get back in shape?
And so the script, from writer-producer Luv Ranjan, has the rigidity of a fitness plan. An award hangs in front of the protagonist: Nushrat Bharucha as Neelu, the new colleague whose parents, Montu’s rogue comrades, harassed in a park. An obstacle is set in the mustached cricket coach of Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, with whom Montu brawls in a sandbox. Around them, director Hansal Mehta stages a series of challenges designed to help our boy become aware of the man he could be if he took to it. It’s all about character, finally, with the script pursuing the idea that Montu’s bluff really is a shield for bruised self-esteem.
Still, we’re never far from the wellness convention, and the second half follows familiar sports movie lines as the Warring Tracksuits choose teams of kids to settle their differences for them. Montu trains mathematicians in Kabaddi, the Montage Generator 5000 is launched and the score begins to mimic Rocky. Even the larger material is inventive: faced with limited resources, Montu trains his team around cow dung to refine their precision.
Theater specialist Mehta (Shahid 2012) brings to this a professionalism that you could easily underestimate. Handled carelessly, fluff like this often escalates into nonsense, but Chhalaang feels weakly precious to land intact towards the end of a busy year.